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Communiqué on the Kosov@ war

The Executive Committee of the War Resisters' International meeting in London, 22-24 May 1999 discussed the war in Kosovo@ and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Those of us from NATO countries discussed the situation in our own countries - for instance of the problems of anti-war groups in dealing with peace organisations who support the NATO bombings, or of so-called anti-war groups who repeat Serbian propaganda and refuse to condemn the Serbian ethnic cleansing. Our view is that the primary author of this situation is Slobodan Milosevic.

How this war will end remains unclear. Indeed, we recognised the danger that though this is the latest of a series of wars, the danger is that it will not be the last of that series: there is a strong risk of war in Albania, Macedonia or Montenegro.

Call to war resistance

The WRI Executive is preparing an appeal for desertion to be signed by prominent people, especially from the NATO countries and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Refugees

In addition to the existing activities of WRI groups opposing both the Serbian ethnic cleansing and the NATO bombings, we noted the particular needs for support of refugees, including draft resisters and deserters.

Refugees are more than victims: they are people whose rights and whose capacity to shape their own future should be respected. We deplore the policy of certain "host" governments restricting access to the refugees or the refugees' association with support groups or compatriates in that country.

Draft resisters and deserters should be recognised as people interrupting the chain of violence, and granted asylum or offered support in training themselves to build peace on their return to their home country. The WRI office will continue to provide information on the legal situation of deserters seeking asylum, and asks affiliates to send the office information relevant to this issue. We re-affirm our solidarity with groups sheltering deserters, legally or illegally.

We considered reports of exploratory visits to Macedonia, hearing both of the bad conditions in the refugee camps and the strain on the fabric of Macedonian society. In view of the willingness of NATO countries to spend so much on bombings, it is a scandal that they will not contribute more to ensure better conditions for displaced people or to support the host communities in Macedonia and Albania. Local groups have a vital role to play in work with refugees, and therefore we would encourage prospective international volunteers to support and join multi-ethnic projects with a local basis, such as those carried out in cooperation by Macedonian and Albanian women (Macedonian- and Kosov@-Albanian) in Macedonia.

Rebuilding civil society

Even when people have been forcibly expelled from their homes, it is still possible to do some work to begin the rebuilding of civil society. Especially in Macedonia, certain Kosov@ Albanian civil society groups have begun to re-form - despite difficulties imposed by the situation, including problems of registration with the Macedonian authorities. Serbian civil society has also suffered repercussions from the war, censorship, intimidation, and even assassination by death squad.

We considered a preliminary report from a Balkan Peace Team exploratory visit to Budapest and Macedonia, and hope that this project can resume its work in support of civil society.

Dialogue

We recognised that fewer Kosov@ Albanians than ever are prepared for dialogue with Serbs, noting a few exceptional individuals including members of the Nansen group. This is not likely to change quickly until more Serbs recognise the culpability of Serbia for what has occurred. At the same time, grass roots initiatives for dialogue will be essential if there is to be any prospect for establishing peaceful coexistence between Serbs and Albanians in Kosov@. We noted that dialogue within the context of South-Eastern Europe as a whole might be more promising than simply solely Serbian-Albanian.

War crimes

WRI regards war itself as a crime against humanity. There is nevertheless a specific need to investigate acts or policies which violate even the codes of war, beginning by identifying the responsibility of Slobodan Milosevic and those acting in collusion with him. Delegitimisation of Milosevic is an essential task for civil society groups and international institutions, and we will continue to publicise the work of citizens and groups inside Serbia who are withdrawing from the regime.

NATO's bombing is in the tradition of other campaigns designed to break the will of a regime by bombing the civilian population. In pursuing the war option, NATO has by-passed other international institutions - the UN, the OSCE, and the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. As the bombing campaign escalates, the selection of targets becomes less and less discriminating - now spreading to include the entire economic infrastructure. Such policies confirm NATO's unfitness to pose as the upholder of international law and guardian of security and human rights.

Informing and education

WRI will continue to play an active role in spreading material from our affiliates in the region, such as Women in Black, and in trying to provide continuing analysis of how the situation is developing and what peace activists outside can contribute to peace.

In addition to material included in the May-August Peace News, we recommend more recent documents available such as the report on the Balkan Peace Team exploratory visit to Hungary and Macedonia, and a 25-page document on Kosovo: After the War, written by Howard Clark for the Kosovo Working Group of the Committee on Conflict Transformation Support.

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